Attending the 2021 TCM Film Festival at Home
As a classic film fan one of the highlights of my year is the TCM Film Festival. Every spring I look forward to 4 glorious days in Hollywood watching film after film with my fellow movie fans. Of course, Covid put an end to all that and the 2020 and 2021 editions were cancelled. Well, not exactly. The in person festivities were cancelled but the film screenings continued on virtually on TCM and HBO Max. Last year, I was too bummed to participate but this year I decided to embrace the virtual fest and spent a wonderful weekend exploring the world of classic film from the comfort of my own home.
Although I would be staying home for this year’s TCM Film Festival I still approached it as I would an in person event. That is, I read the schedule over and over again trying to decided just what movies to watch. Now, it was a little easier for me than others because I don’t have HBO Max, the platform on which half the films were shown. So I stuck to what was showing on TCM and chose my films focusing, as I do every year, on movies I was completely unfamiliar with.
As I chose my films I realized there was one major benefit to a virtual festival – the DVR. Most years I missed certain movies because they didn’t fit into my schedule but not this year! I just DVR’d to my hearts content and watched them at my leisure. When all was said and done I watched 6 new (to me) movies and 2 special programs (Hollywood Home Movies and Tex Avery at MGM). I can’t say I loved every one of them but most were thoroughly enjoyable and reiterated my love for classic film.
One highlight was the TCM premier of the recently restored Doctor X from 1932. Starring Lionel Atwill, Preston Foster and Fay Wray this spooky tale was filmed in two-color Technicolor which gives it an otherworldly look that brings the creepiness factor up to 11. Beautifully restored it’s an early horror film that still packs a punch. I was thoroughly impressed by the masterful makeup, the topsy turvy plot and the spooky performances from the game cast and at nearly 90 years old Doctor X still managed to creep me out!
Prior to the festival I was familiar with the film-making team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger but had only seen one of their productions, The Red Shoes. Although visually stunning it’s far too depressing for me. That’s certainly not the case with I Know Where I’m Going! their 1945 film about a chance encounter in rural Scotland that just may be the start of a beautiful romance. Starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesley it’s a quiet yet powerful film that draws you in with it’s realistic portrayal of life and love in the waning days of World War II.
I would never add Princess Tam Tam to a list of my favorite films. In fact, it wasn’t very good at all. But it stuck with me nonetheless thanks to an enthusiastic performance from its star Josephine Baker. I had never before seen one of her films and was immediately impressed by her command of the screen. The ultimate performer, she dominates every scene she’s and delivers an unforgettable performance highlighted by her signature song and dance.
Ultimately, I enjoyed my 2021 TCM Film Festival at home experience yet can’t wait until it resumes its in person event. I appreciated watching the films at my leisure and from the comfort of my couch but there’s nothing like sitting in a darkened theatre with a few hundred fellow film fans watching the flicker of the big screen. Fingers crossed 2022 will bring me back to Hollywood for four days of film fun.